Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24: John 10:11-18
“The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty.” – Abraham Lincoln
Are sheep really that dumb? The Fourth Sunday of Easter is always the feast of the Good Shepherd. In this analogy we are the sheep. Some folks have an issue with this comparison. The objection has often been that this is an insult to us, comparing us to stupid, submissive sheep. Well, perhaps sheep are not all that brainless after all. If anything, the sheep are the ones slighted here. Aside from some impressive technical advances, we humans have not been all that bright. We think we can solve problems by war. We hoard. We are fixated on social climbing, status, and prestige. At least in the United States, we consume more goods and food than is healthy. We are into a culture of competition that creates a society of winners and losers. We are always slipping around into our shadow side, hiding in the dark. However, our shadow side is part of who we are. Let us never deny ourselves. We are our shadow wolves at our own throats. That brings us to the main point. The focus of this day is not on the sheep but the shepherd. This is another of those examples where the New Testament says of Jesus what the Old Testament would only say of God. Today we also have Psalm 23 in which God is the shepherd. Now in the Gospel, Jesus is the shepherd. Hint, hint. In spite of our obsession with a distorted kind of liberty that rips our throats out, the divine (God? Jesus?) cares for us. The care is so deep that Jesus is willing to give over all that he is (John 10:11 – see Greek below). God accepts our dark side because he loves the whole of us. God even uses our shadow self to liberate us from ourselves. Much of our suffering we bring on ourselves. But there is no holiness without suffering. God is a recycler. God uses even what we waste. Nothing is wasted. God takes our downside and makes it holy – wholly. Indeed “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.” (Psalm 23:1)
John 10:11 says that Jesus lays down his “life” for the sheep. The Greek word here is not simple physical life. The word (psyche) means one’s total self, even one’s inner life, all that one is. It is sometimes translated “soul.” So this word indicates that Jesus has a deep, soulful, total, personal commitment to us.
Moonless dark night gloom.
Shepherd good drives wolf away.
Holy rescued whole